Until now, alas, classical musical had been more than a little late to the revolution. No, not a televised one; the online revolution--that digi-revolt against all the real, tactile records (and tapes) of some 1000 years of performance practice proper. Blame the medium, not the message, though. Lo, about an hour south of Amsterdam, one dutiful Dutch downloading distributor would soon oblige: primephonic.
Ratatet's 'Arctic' debut (Ridgeway Records) comes out of San Francisco fully formed. OK, fine, hold a gun to my head and I'll have to admit it's jazz. But with a front line consisting of trombone and electric bassoon, the SOUND is so scintillatingly different and passionate, let's for once throw away the concept of genre, shall we?
This one is a real find. Hammond B3 organist Larry Young, like many of his jazz contemporaries, found himself living and working in Paris in 1964. The music on the two-disc 'In Paris: The ORTF Recordings' (Resonance Records) has been heard exactly once: live on French radio. These tapes have been meticulously maintained by the French National Audiovisual Institute for the last half-century and released now, for the first time.
It is said that by the time Janis Joplin reached fame and fortune, most of her voice had been blown out. The soundtrack to Amy J. Berg's highly anticipated 'Janis: Little Girl Blue' (Columbia/Legacy Recordings) starts out with the pre-fame little girl in question belting out Lead Belly's "Careless Love." She was, after all, a blues singer, first and foremost.
New Yorker Ryan Keberle is in three bands. He's been around the world with singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens. He's been in the studio with David Bowie, Alicia Keys and David Byrne. He serves as Director of Jazz and Brass Studies at Hunter College. Playing jazz in Manhattan for the last 15 years has only made him more conversant in his particular field: South American music. On 'Azul Infinito' (Greenleaf Music), he stretches the boundaries of music from Columbia, Argentina, Brazil and Peru.
Given the measure of biopics coming out this year about late jazz legends, one would think that the time has come for the genre to make a comeback. Zoe Saldana channels Nina Simone, Don Cheadle the late trumpeter Miles Davis and, brokenheartedly, Ethan Hawke does the heroine-driven Chet Baker. A narrative that wants to bring you low--way low--the story fails, however, to do much to remedy its self-imposed blues.
Think of what a trio comprised of bass clarinet, bass and drums could sound like where the dulcet tones of the lead instrument not only blends, but weaves and insinuates itself through the mix like a human voice as the piano-less rhythm section gurgles and comes alive like some dinosaur egg being born in the primordial ooze. Welcome to the world inhabited by Dutch composer Joris Roelof, 32, he of the esoteric bass clarinet, on 'Amateur Dentist' (Pirouet Records).
(Format 23,5x16 cm.) Armed with a large drill-bit, GX Jupitter-Larsen hurls himself from 3,000 meters. During descent, he drills a hole in the sky as literal as only he could -- ∆G all along the "polywave." And thus the title of this handsomely packaged, shoddily reproduced grimoire from John Wiese's Helicopter imprint.
Here's a young trumpet player, composer and arranger from Capetown, South Africa who plays well beyond his years. For 'Imagine Nation' (Hot Shoe Records) Darren English has written a three-track suite for Nelson Mandela [1918-2013]. English was born in 1990, the year Mandela was released from prison. Add two bebop classics, one more original and four imaginatively reconfigured tunes from the "great American songbook" and you've got one impressive debut.
There's no way Arturo O'Farrill's Latin Jazz Orchestra will prepare you for this! 'Boss Level' (Zoho Music) by the Arturo Farrill Sextet is a staunchly bebopping 10-track manifesto recorded after they performed for a solid week at Birdland in New York City to hone their seemingly telepathic chops. Of course, pianist Arturo-son of the great Chico O'Farrill-has been jamming with the trumpeter (Adam) and the drummer (Zack) of this sextet forever. They're both his sons. With three O'Farrills amid the ghost of Grandpa Chico smiling, this is more than just a family affair. It's a whole 'nother O'Farrill level. 'Boss Level.'
There's plenty of both in this aptly-named project: 'Of Mystery And Beauty' (Lilypad Music) by Karolina Strassmayer & Drori Mondlak-Klaro! It has a rather unique sound. But, then again, this quartet really came into its own starting on its fifth (2011's 'Joining Forces') and sixth (2013's 'Small Moments') CDs. They have experienced the kind of upward trajectory that only international acclaim can garner.
Doug Richards is one of the most respected composers/arrangers you've never heard of, so much so that a 2014 tribute CD, 'Bugles Over Zagreb: The Music of Doug Richards' by Rex Richardson, paid tribute to him before he ever even recorded under his own name. Richards put The Great American Music Ensemble (GAME) together in the mid-'80s, toured throughout the '90s, and in 2001, recorded 'It's All In The Game,' yet due to lack of label interest, it sat unheard until now.
Rob Reddy has been around since the late '80s. Sidney Bechet [1897-1959] was, many say, the first important jazz soloist (recording just months prior to Louis Armstrong). 'Bechet: Our Contemporary' (Reddy Music) is Reddy's seventh album with four tracks each by both composers. It takes Bechet's pioneering music away from the ghetto of dusty time to reposition it as the groundbreaking force it once was.
Sri Hanuraga -- known as Aga -- is a young piano player from Indonesia whose new CD "To the Universe" (deMajors Records) is influenced by Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner, yet it's Brad Mehldau who Aga apes on this self-produced quartet recording of piano/bass/drums/flute.
They say first impressions are everything. After wowing the world with his “Prelude in C-sharp minor,” Sergei Rachmaninoff set expectations high for his 'First Symphony.' However, things didn’t go quote so well for Rachmaninoff, leading him to a three year long struggle with writer's block. But you know what they say, one man’s writer bock is another man’s hit musical...That is a saying right? 'Dave Malloy’s' musical Preludes goes inside the mind of Rachmaninoff, exploring his three year creative drought and the events that lead to it.